Tamara Drewe

9 Nov

Title: Tamara Drewe
Stephen Frears
Moira Buffini, based on the comic strip by Posy Simmonds
Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Tamsin Greig, Jessica Barden
MPAA Rating:
R, language and some sexuality
111 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


I am a big big fan of director Stephen Frears. Whether it’s High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things, The Grifters or The Queen the guy has an amazing eye, and can navigate many different tonalities and genres with the same amazing effects, with the last two of the films I named even getting him Best Director Oscar nominations. So yes, I’m a fan of his work, and so I was intrigued to see Tamara Drewe, his latest project, a nice little British comedy about a journalist who returns to the little village she grew up in to sell dead mother’s home.

In that little village there is a house where writers go to to finish off their stories. That retreat is run by a couple, the husband being a writer himself, of crime novels, and also being a cheating husband every time gets. The wife is a saint, running the retreat splendidly, and, at the end of the day, still loving her husband who ultimately always comes back to her.

Gemma Arterton plays the titular character, who went to London as a little girl with a big nose and journalistic aspirations and comes back after a plastic surgeon made her nose regular again and with a full-fleged career in motion. Everyone in town loves how Tamara looks now, whether it’s the new nose or the new more revealing outfits, and we also get to meet one of the few people who loved how she looked back in day, Andy, who still lives in the village doing odd jobs here and there.

Tamara Drewe is at turns really amusing, because Mr. Frears tangles up the lives of everyone to quite funny results. Tamara and the crime novelist go at it, but then comes Dominic Cooper’s character into town, a rock and roll star from London, and she gets it on with him instead, all the while she still flirts with Andy. And we also have Jody and Casey, the village’s two meddlesome teenage girls who have a huge celebrity crush on Ben and spy on everyone and start interfering with Tamara’s live to rather entertaining results.

This is a film that works because of Mr. Frears, he knows how to handle this group of people, who all live in a village in which they all know each other and all have something to do with each other’s lives. And he crafts a nice tale, one in which the people are dumb at times because they need to be to follow their hearts, and a tale in which they all get what they had coming to them. And, what’s best, is that all the characters are very human, very normal, and it’s true, they all have real aspirations, real desires, and they feel real to us, which makes us enjoy this one even more.

Tamara has those three suitors, the childhood acquaintance with back luck, the adulterous crime novelist and the vain rock star. So yes, there is a bit of sexy comedy here, and it works, and there is also a bit of very real human melodrama, too. And there are those two teenagers, bored with their own existence in a dull little town who then resort to manipulate the fates of the adults who live in them for their own amusement, and for ours, too.

This is a nice little British comedy, I also liked the subplot in which the crime novelist’s wife meets an American academic and they hit it off as the two disappointed-in-love literature-lovers they are. Now, while the story is carried off very nicely by Mr. Frears, who handles the many love stories and even the one rather violent death later on in the film quite well, the characters I felt were what ultimately weighted this film down. Tamara herself for instance, felt really really one-dimensional at times, and considering her name is the title of the film that’s rather unacceptable.

The other thing I didn’t like at times was the tone of it all. Yes, it’s funny and cheerful most of the times, but at times it stumbles upon topics that would really benefit from a temporary change of attitude. This is still much better and much more honest than the majority of the Hollywood romantic comedies we see by the dozens every year, mostly because Hollywood studios wouldn’t let their heroine bed three men. But that’s something we would have expected from Mr. Frears anyways, so it doesn’t cut it here. Go see his 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears and you’ll know how this one would have benefitted from a similar sort of hand by him, but still, even though by his standards this one may be below par, it’s still a quite commendable little film.

Grade: B


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